Wide Receiver Amari Cooper
Before the Oakland Raiders flew to Colorado for their regular season finale against the Denver Broncos, we highlighted three matchups that would be key in how the Week 17 showdown would play out.
Things didn't go exactly to plan for the Silver and Black, as they fell to the Broncos 24-6, but all is not lost, as they have still earned a berth in the postseason, and will take on the Houston Texans Saturday afternoon at NRG Stadium in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
However, before we officially turn the page to the Texans – and the Raiders first postseason game in 14 years – let's review our matchups and see how they played out.
Quarterback Matt McGloin vs. Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips
Heading into the Raiders regular season finale, Matt McGloin was expected to handle the quarterbacking duties for the Silver and Black, and while he did get the start under center, things changed quickly in the second quarter when he was forced to leave the game due to a shoulder injury.
The fourth-year quarterback played just four series in Sunday's loss to the Broncos, completing six of 11 passes for 21 yards before Connor Cook was brought in to finish out the remainder of the game.
"I thought he had a couple decent throws earlier in the game," said Head Coach Jack Del Rio when discussing McGloin's performance. "The one to 'Crab' [Michael Crabtree] on the sideline was a pretty good throw, he just didn't come up with it. It was tight coverage. So, we had some of those opportunities. I think it was just OK."
Following McGloin's departure, Cook played the final 32 offensive snaps, throwing for 150 yards and helping manufacture the only Raiders points of the day, a 32-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Amari Cooper.
However, regardless of who was under center for the Raiders, the Broncos defense seemed to have an answer for them, as the staunch Broncos defense showed up in a big way Sunday afternoon, sending Head Coach Gary Kubiak into the sunset with one final win under his belt.
Running Backs Latavius Murray, Jalen Richard and DeAndré Washington vs. Inside Linebackers Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis
Over the past month or so, the Raiders ground attack had been running like a well-oiled machine, with each of the team's trio of running backs filling a different role in the offensive game plan.
However, that machine broke down a bit Sunday afternoon at Sports Authority Field, as the Silver and Black were only able to muster 57 yards on 16 rushing attempts against the Broncos.
"When you want to run the ball well, you have to move the chains," Del Rio explained Tuesday. "We were terrible on third down yesterday. The best way to getting a running game going is to get more opportunities and be able to run it more. Part of that is converting on third [down]."
Del Rio is right, the Raiders struggled heavily on third down, converting just 2 of 11 opportunities, and that was indeed one of the reasons why the run game couldn't get rolling, after the Raiders racked up a season-high 218 yards the last time the team's squared up.
For the second week in a row, DeAndré Washington paced the Raiders running backs, but his 43 yards weren't enough to help build any type of momentum for the ground attack Sunday against the Broncos.
Wide Receiver Amari Cooper vs. Aqib Talib
Offensively, there really weren't many positives to take away from the Raiders Week 17 loss; the group looked out of sync, and for the most part, the Broncos defense did a good job of limiting the Silver and Black's big plays all afternoon.
However, Cooper did get loose once, hauling in a 32-yard touchdown pass from Connor Cook to give the Raiders their only points of the day.
At day's end, Cooper caught four passes for 39 yards, while Talib finished with four total tackles, although his actions against Michael Crabtree received more press than his play on the field.
The Broncos have boasted tight coverage all season, and Sunday's effort was more of the same in that regard.